So, last week wasn’t actually my last blog post. I apologize for the premature fanfare. No one is more disappointed than I. Anywho, I’m interested this week in Derrida’s construction of the physical archive as a displacement of certain psychic prejudices and consignments. Derrida observes that the archon inevitable installs themselves as a kind of administrator of culture, an extension of the State’s need to classify, order, and categorize cultural material, a recuperation of civil law which imposes vast and horizontal taxonomies of experience. To what extent does the archive play an active role in establishing those taxonomies which render the dynamism of experience inert? Derrida sites the liquidation of stable generic categories as essentially unorderable. If generic deconstruction is insurmountable, “order is no longer assured” (5).
I wonder how Derrida’s challenge to generic purity applies to periodization. Are you periods out of touch with the generic slippage archival efforts have exposed? As I pick my exam fields, I’ve sort of been conditioned to choose periods based on the skills they provide. To oversimply to the periodic taxonomy to an absurd degree: Nineteenth century is for the novel, modernism is for media tracking media proliferation, and contemporary is for deconstruction. Despite our efforts to deconstruct the canon and the traditional archonic procedures around the emergence of post-colonial reason, our periods have largely remained the same. Look, grad students aren’t stupid. We see what’s happening in the academy. The mission of the expert has failed. The interdisciplinary challenges of modernity have exposed specialization and mastery as illusory. I’m not sure that’s a positive development, and I’m not ready to turn the academic process into a cafeteria line, picking and choosing as we go, but it’s a concern I have. If I earn an academic job, will it be as an expert, or as a mere citizen of an ecology of art that has become overgrown and wild?